Want emails like this one in your inbox every Monday? Subscribe here!

Image item
Image item
MONDAY #435: Mornings, Altars & Expectancy
At the beginning of this year, I felt something shifting in my spirit.
I had the vision for the year. I had the goals and even some plans. But as I sat down in one of my quiet times in late December, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of doom mingled with some optimism for the year ahead.
Some new goals are on the list that feel exciting and fun– I’m ready to approach them. But there are also some goals that I think are looping on repeat at this point. You know the kind, I’m sure.
We feel a fire lit beneath us at the starting line for many of these goals. That fire stays blazing for approximately one month (maybe two) before the passion slips away and the focus becomes blurry. We try to return the goal at various junctures in the year: the start of Lent, the cusp of September, and then once again on December 31.
As I stared down one of those looping goals, I thought, “Isn’t this the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing repeatedly and yet expecting different results?”
That’s when I felt a push in my spirit to sideline some of these goals for a different goal, a more important goal: time with God above everything else.
We briefly discussed it in last week’s email, but I felt the nudge to linger here a little longer for someone who needs the memo loud and clear.
What would it look like to put God first in 2024?
What would it look like to take that monotonous, tired goal you’re always setting for yourself and hand the keys over to God for him to drive?
Now, to know me is to know I’m a very practical person. I don’t believe in setting abstract goals because they rarely lead anywhere. It’s the difference between wanting to drive to The Daily coffee shop on the Westside of Atlanta for a morning drip and typing “Atlanta” into the GPS app, hoping you’ll arrive at your destination. Goals need to be specific. There must be a measurable outcome. They have to come with a plan of attack and sometimes even those bumper rails you see at the bowling alley.
So what does it look like, practically speaking, to put God first in 2024?
Just this morning, I came across a verse in Psalms 5 that prompted me to write these words in the first place:
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice.
   In the morning I lay it all out before you.
   Then I wait expectantly.
It’s such a straightforward yet striking directive.
First, the psalmist implies that he will meet with God in the morning– more than likely, first thing in the morning. 
What we do in the morning sets the tone for the day. Do we wake up and scroll? Do we wake up and check email? Do we wake up when the rest of the house wakes up and then play catch-up throughout the day?
Throughout the Scriptures, the importance of the morning hours is emphasized repeatedly. There’s something to it.
There have been seasons in my life where I haven’t met with God in the morning because I had other things that were more pressure-filled to tend to. My relationship with God didn’t necessarily change, but I felt him less daily and experienced less peace and assurance. 
I’ve started to press into meeting God first thing in the morning and making it a priority. In the same way I would prioritize a meeting with someone on the calendar. It sets the tone for the day. It stokes the fire within me. It allows me to lay the pieces of my life before God like an exchange.
That’s the second piece of what the psalmist says. Look how it’s written in the message translation:
Every morning
   you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
   I lay out the pieces of my life
   on your altar…
That’s precisely what I did this morning– and what I do especially do on mornings when I don’t know where to begin: I wrote down all the things that were at the front of my mind. Those matters of mine are matters of God.
I wrote down bits about my family. About marketing. About speaking engagements and tax prep. I’m tempted to say that God isn’t in some of these things, but I’ve learned over and over again that God is the God of big and small things.
He’s the God over tax prep and the God over illness.
He’s the God over laundry and the God over patience with your spouse.
He’s the God of everything, and everything means exactly that: every last thing.
So what would it look like to spread out all the pieces wide– all out on the table like a puzzle? You don’t have to have resolve when you do it. You don’t have to be tidy with it. You can say, “Here. Here's everything I’m thinking about. I’m handing it over to you.”
I think it’s important to note that this psalm– Psalm 5– is considered psalm of lament. It's a poetic hymn meant to be sung out to God in desperation. The psalmist is going through something turbulent. And so laying the pieces out before God in the morning isn’t just a prim and proper thing to do when the to-do list is all aligned. It’s a battle tactic. It’s a white flag. It’s an action for the weary and the broken to say, “Dear God, I don’t know what to do with this mess. But I need you. And I’m not going to keep it to myself. I won’t tidy it up or make it look better for you. Here is the mess– no edits, filters, or pretense.”
But here’s what I love most about this passage, what I’m circling today: the psalmist meets God in the morning, and he meets him with the pieces of his life, but he doesn’t just wait for an outcome. The Scripture says he waits expectantly– expecting God to show up and show off.
If I’m being honest, this is where I struggle. I can wait, sure, but do I wait expectantly? Do I wait with the belief that a breakthrough is coming? 
In the Message translation, it reads: 
I lay out the pieces of my life
   on your altar
   and watch for fire to descend.
Spurgeon writes, “Do we not miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by a want of careful meditation before it, and of hopeful expectation after it? Let holy preparation link hands with patient expectation, and we shall have far larger answers to our prayers.”
I know we’re entering into a series on discipline, but I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t just me who needed these words this morning. Maybe it was you. Perhaps you, too, need the reminder:
Of the mornings.
Of meeting God first thing.
Of being specific with your goals.
Of letting God in on every last thing.
Of being hopeful and expectant that this year– with God at the helm– some real and lasting transformation could occur. 
It’s 2024. We’re at the starting line.
We’re not just going through the motions this year, my friend. 
We’re watching for fire to descend.
Hannah B.
Hi, I'm Hannah
I'm an author, speaker, and online educator with a heart for encouraging others to keep fighting forward.
I live in Atlanta with my husband Laney, daughter Novi, and rescue pup Tuesday.